Members of the public from Eau Claire and Chippewa counties asked questions and provided input at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport master plan open house Thursday evening.
The master plan is a 20-year outlook of the airport’s current facilities that details what aspects of the airport are working and anticipates needs for the facility in the future. It weighs options for changes to the airport in years to come.
“What the master plan really is doing is looking at the next 20 years for an airport, deciding what the needs are anticipated to be and then how do we best meet those needs,” said airport planner Rob Sims.
A master plan identifies and explains capital projects needed now and over the next two decades, the relationship between proposed projects and lists long-term comprehensive perspectives for decisions to come.
Sims said the airport master plan is a five-chapter planning document that gets updated or reconfigured as often as every decade.
Currently, the first two chapters are finished and being reviewed by the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics and Federal Aviation Administration.
The first chapter looks at the inventory, establishing what is currently offered at the airport. The second talks about what activities go on at the airport. This includes discussions of the number of based aircraft, the number of passengers that fly through the airport and the types of aircraft that are using the facility, Sims said.
Then, Sims said, “chapter three looks at chapter two and says, ‘Well, this is the anticipated activity that’s going to happen here. What do we need to accommodate that?’”
It might be that the facility needs more hangars for based aircraft or changes to the lights in an area of the airport. There are lots of factors that get examined, Sims said.
Sims said chapter three is close to being complete. Next on the agenda is to write the fourth chapter, which looks at options and alternatives.
“That is when we really put pen to paper and say, ‘In chapter three, we said we need more hangars for all the aircraft we see in chapter two. Chapter four gets to well, where should we put them? How big should it be?’” Sims said. “So chapter four is going to get into these details.”
The document wraps up with chapter five, which talks about the specific typing, timing and funding for the varying projects identified.
Airport director Charity Zich said the open house is one way to gather input and connect with stakeholders of the airport.
“We’re having multiple public meetings so citizens can certainly, you know, participate in these and they will see information from the meetings out on our website. If they have feedback, they can provide it outside of the meeting also,” Zich said. “There are so many stakeholders at airports. It takes lots of input for this planning process.”
Outside the group of invested members of the public who provide feedback on the planning process, there is the airport commission and a master planning committee that have a say in the future of the airport. That includes stakeholders from some of the airport businesses and airlines that use the facility.
“They’re providing input throughout the process,” Zich said.
While the master planning document is more than half complete right now, the entire master planning process still has a ways to go. The master plan document should be complete by early summer of 2024, but that is followed by the layout plan, which Zich said is “a rather lengthy process.” The full master planning process should be complete in about two years, she said.
The next open house will take place in the spring, Sims said.
“That will be more about, hey, here’s what we’re planning on changing or at least studying to change. Tonight, it’s really about what is driving those changes,” Sims said.